In a letter written to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, workers of tea gardens in North Bengal have asked her to fix minimum wages, hanging fire since 2014, and take other measures for their welfare.
Paschimbanga Khetmajoor Samity, an independent trade union in Bengal which promotes agricultural workers’ rights, has asked Banerjee to fix the minimum wage for tea plantation workers at least at par with their counterparts in agriculture.
“Though an Advisory Committee for the minimum wage was set up in 2014, it has yet to come up with a fixed amount. We continue to get only Rs 176 a day that has been determined in an ad hoc manner. Agricultural workers have a minimum wage of Rs 257, as do workers in cinchona plantations. Tripartite wage agreements for tea gardens were renewed every three years. But the wages were supposed to be raised on an annual basis. The workers haven’t been offered an acceptable raise though it has been more than six years since the last wage agreement,” read the letter dated September 30.
Tea workers want the government to either fix a minimum wage scientifically or through a tripartite meeting between trade unions, tea plantation owners and government officials.
“We demand immediate payment of all financial assistance to the Workers of Locked Out Industries,” read the letter.
Banerjee is in north Bengal for a four-day trip to hold administrative meetings. The organisation feels that her visit may turn out to be beneficial for tea garden workers.
“The tea plantation workers have been harassed and exploited over generations. We would like to draw your attention towards some of their problems. Workers and their families do not have any rights on the land they and their ancestors have been working on for over 200 years.
With workers having no legal rights over land, the management has the power to evict any worker currently out of work. We demand immediate land rights for them,” further read the letter.
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